What to Pack for Safer Family Adventures

Benjamin Franklin said that, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", well, a few pounds of gear in your day pack are worth hundreds of pounds of cure. Even on simple hikes, or picnics in the backcountry, a well-organized day pack can make your family adventures fun, happy and safe... and who doesn't want that?

A good day pack will prepare you for the unknown. Here's a list of needs that a good day pack for family adventures should provide for:

  • Warmth

  • Shelter

  • Food/water

  • First Aid

  • Navigation


What to Pack

family day pack

It's worth having a dedicated set of supplies set aside with for your backcountry adventures. Better yet, have them all stored in a small backpack so that you're ready for an impromptu (and safe) family trip. Just add the specifics like water and snacks and you'll be out the door with the kids more quickly and easily.

A Good day pack for trips with kids should include a survival kit, first aid kit, warm clothes and rain gear, navigation tools, food and water (and water purification), a good multi-tool, as well as an emergency contact device (like a cell phone, sat phone or emergency beacon). Let's go through some examples of a typical and lightweight day pack. We'll break things down by category.

Family Adventures - what to pack

A Family First Aid Kit

A small 1-3 ounce first aid kit with essentials to handle cuts, scrapes and mild allergic reactions, pain killers, medical tape, etc. will cover all your basic needs. It shouldn't take up a lot of space, and can really come in handy for the unexpected. For example, our daughter tore an 8 inch gash in her pants and cut her leg on a recent hike in the park. Fortunately, we were able to disinfect the wound, patch her and her pants up and finish our adventure.

Here's a list of what we include:

  • Medical Tape (like Leukotape)

  • Moleskin

  • Bandages

  • Gauze

  • Antibiotic ointment

  • Antiseptic wipes

  • Pain killers

  • Antihistamines

  • Anti-inflammatories

  • Burn cream

  • Bug Cream

  • Tweezers

  • Tick remover

  • Needle and thread

  • A waterproof zip-lock bag to store it all in


Whatever you include in your First Aid Kit, make sure that you know how to use things. I purchased an off-the-shelf kit by Adventure Medical Kits and then customized it with a few of my own items, like a roll of Leukotape (worth its weight in gold). This is by no means an exhaustive kit, and should be tailored to your experience, climate and kids' needs (like epi-pens, inhalers, etc).

It's worth sitting down with your kids and explaining what each of the items do so they can help out and feel more involved. You can turn it into a game by matching the item to its need. For example, "which item do I use to deal with a bee sting?"

A Family Survival Kit

Survival Kit

Many people confuse a Survival Kit with a first aid kit. They are two different things and they serve different purposes. One helps deal directly with medical issues, while the other serves to prevent or resolve situations that could otherwise lead to medical issues. Survival kits typically contain items like fire starters, whistles, mirrors, compasses, emergency blankets, and food and water purification. Bring one along for the unexpected times when weather, injury or confusion leave you stranded in the outdoors unexpectedly... and know how to use it.

My kit includes:

  • Mylar Emergency Blankets (1 for each person on the adventure)

  • 1 micro compass

  • 1 signal mirror

  • 1 emergency whistle (the kids have them on their backpacks as well)

  • Fishing gear with hooks and line

  • Flint rod (ferrocerium rod)

  • Mini lighter / matches

  • A small metal cup or pot for boiling water

  • Duct tape (although I use my Leukotape for both medical and survival)

  • 30-50 feet of 550 paracord

  • A couple boiled sweets

  • A good multi-tool with knife, scissors, pliers and saw blade

  • A heavy duty garbage bag

  • LED light (crank powered is better)


emergency kit

If you're careful, all of this should fit into the cook pot you've included in your kit. You'll hopefully never need it, but it's useful to have just in case. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive kit, and should be tailored to your experience and climate. If you want a more complete kit, look at this comparison of the kits recommended by three well-known survival experts.

It's fun to pull out items and practice using them on your adventures as it can give you more confidence and prepare the whole family for the unexpected should it happen.

Family Hydration and Water Purification

Paul Osborn
posted by
Paul Osborn
Paul Osborn is an avid outdoor adventurer and frequently tweets about his trips. He's loved being outdoors since he was a kid and is always game to try something new. Currently, he's trying to instill a love for everything wild in his own kids. Paul's website, The Outdoor Adventure, encourages others to open their doors and get outside by giving them the tools and confidence necessary to do so. He did just that on the John Muir Trail in June 2013 with a group that included members of Sierra Trading Post's own social media team. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
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